Radio team Opie Hughes and Anthony Cumia are celebrating twenty years in radio and SiriusXM held a special LIVE event at Caroline’s Comedy Club on Broadway to mark their career. Ron Bennington, who hosts SiriusXM’s “Unmasked” sat down with Opie and Anthony in front of a packed house and talked with them about the ups and downs of the past 20 years. Comedian and co-host Jim Norton joined them on stage to talk about his time on the show as well. Bennington was the perfect host, the stories were amazing, and the crowd was excited to hear the infamous radio hosts tell the stories for over an hour and a half.
Long time listeners and new fans got to hear some of the behind the scenes stories that went as far back as the early Long Island years when Opie and Anthony first met. Anthony called the meeting “the right time, the right talent and the right chemistry.”
It was Anthony’s brother who actually was responsible for the partnership. “I was WBAB at one of the many homes of rock n roll I worked at,” Opie explained. “I was doing a very easy bit…it was the OJ trial and I just wanted parody songs from the local bands about the trial.” Opie said one night some lunatic was knocking at the door over and over again. It was brother Joe (Anthony’s brother for anyone unfamiliar with the show) refusing to give the cassette tape to anyone but Opie. The parody song featured Anthony signing vocals with the band Rotgut. “Anthony singing was by far the best we ever got. Everyone was requesting it every night which was crazy!” Opie brought the band in to perform the song live and knew instantly that he and Anthony had something. “I knew that day we were going to take it to the top,” he said. Nobody else at the station at the time saw it, but Opie got it.
Anthony’s reaction came from a different angle. “Oh this is great,” Anthony said at the time,”I’ll get to do radio and within a month make millions!” He couldn’t imagine that you could be in radio but not be rich. And when Opie would complain about his bosses, Ant remembered thinking, “how can you complain— this is fantastic, what a job!” Anthony thought, “I’m in a 130 degree attic every day and he’s pissed because the fucking weenie [Opie’s PD] won’t let him play…” Ant recalled, “and then I realized he was right.” They knew they had something bigger than what they were doing, and soon left Long Island for a chance to be more than a night time rock show. They split a u-haul, and left town. Anthony literally threw his tin-knocking sheet metal tools out the window of his Dodge Aires K-car on I-95, (something Opie never knew before tonight). And when Anthony showed up to get Opie and his things, Opie smashed most of his own shit on his front lawn because there wasn’t enough room in the U-haul.
Opie and Anthony also shared stories about planning their career in Boston, where meetings took place at glamorous spots like an IHop (where they talked about vision while passing the boysenberry syrup) and a Chinese buffet (where Anthony actually laughed out loud when the ‘boss’ passed him a slip of paper listing a very small salary increase). And they talked about making the decision that it was time to leave which meant getting out of their contract, with Opie admitting “We purposely tried to get fired,” something they have hinted at for years but never said outright. “We were killing it and making no money.”
Some of the most moving moments of the evening were when Opie would tell stories about the game changing moments, when he and Anthony made risky decisions about their career. First when they decided to leave WAAF, and then later in a car on route 9 outside of Boston where they realized they had to stop listening to their program director and do their own thing. “We actually had a talk” Opie said, where they agreed, “lets just not fucking listen to these guys anymore, lets do whatever is best for our show.” The third time they had “the talk” was after four months on the air in New York. “And we’re not moving the needle whatsover,” Opie said, “so we started dropping records, and then once again, on the way home on the Long Island Expressway we had the same exact talk that we had in Boston.” Opie told Anthony, “we gotta just throw everything away and do our thing again.” They never needed to have that talk again, as things went from records straight to, as Anthony put it, “let’s stick a phone up a girls vagina now! We gotta do that! We gotta keep it going!” What followed that talk at WNEW was a runaway train. It was “that show that never ended. The debauchery that went on in that place…Some things were illegal or at least veeery much against company policy” Anthony said.
There were stories about the infamous Jagermeister machine, the legendary wiffle bat challenge, half naked girls, and both Opie and Anthony talked about the adrenline rushes that propelled them to keep topping themselves. They even talked openly about a rift that formed that caused the two of them to not speak to each other off air for over a year. “We didn’t even talk when the mics were off,” they said.
And then there was Jim Norton. Halfway through the interview Jimmy came out to giant applause and told stories about his first time on the show (he says he bombed), the first woman who gave him a blowjob for being on the radio (he still keeps in touch), how his audiences blew up so big that he moved out of his crappy New Jersey apartment and signed a two year lease, and how it all came crashing down a few months later, during Sex for Sam. “Opie added church on the list.” Anthony remembered about the night that brought their career down and had them out of work for over two years. But it was just so they could read the list and it would sound shocking. “Go Fuck in Macys,” Anthony said. “The Church on the list was outrageous enough and we thought it would stop by just saying church.” Nobody was expecting anyone to actually show up at the church. Bennington added, “I think it’s kind of amazing that you guys think it’s OK to fuck in a Macy’s.” Opie now admits that he should have been more careful. “We didn’t see the signs, we didn’t see that it was changing” he said referring to the culture of radio back in 2002.
Even after their time off, the party continued at XM Satellite Radio…for awhile. But then surprisingly, it was Norton who years later would become the conservative voice in the group, suggesting that they take things out of the replays that might get them fired, and calm things down. “Jimmy knocked some sense into us,” Opie said. “We got rid of the bat and the Jaeger machine and that was all Jim Norton.” Since that time, the show has evolved again. Opie has a family. And as Bennington pointed out, it’s taken away some of “how do I burn this shithouse down” chaotic vibe.
The stories were amazing, and it was great to hear the guys go over the changes in their career and talk about the highs and the lows. Even diehard long time listeners wrote in on twitter that they didn’t realize how many ups and downs and turning points there have been in the last twenty years, and newer listeners got a history lesson. There were far too many stories to share them all here, but Anthony summed it all up best when he said,
“We started as guys in our early 20s but very similar– from Long Island you know with our girls and stuff. And our lives have changed in drastically different directions but the show has always been there as the show. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in each others lives, we can get on that mic and fucking do a show and it’s the Opie and Anthony show and you know it. You just know it.”
The night ended up with some cupcakes courtesy of Don “Wicky” Wickland, and a meet and greet, and signed posters for everyone.
The interview aired LIVE on RawDog SiriusXM Comedy Hits Channel 99 and on The Opie and Anthony Channel on Thursday April 17, and will be available in its entirety on SiriusXM On Demand. It will also replay on SiriusXM Raw Dog at 8pm et on Saturday April 19th, and 3pm April 20th. The Opie and Anthony Show airs weekdays from 6:30am to 10:30 am et weekdays and repeats all day on The Opie and Anthony Channel on SiriusXM. Unmasked airs weekly on Raw Dog and Ron Bennington can be heard daily on The Ron and Fez Show on Raw Dog from noon to 3pm et daily.
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